A little while ago I was in a meeting of Year 12 English teachers, discussing how the course is going, and planning for next year. One thing that got agreement from everyone was that we needed to improve the way we distributed newspaper articles to students for the language analysis task.
In essence, what we did this year was collate a booklet of articles that the library had found for us their online databases. We were asking students to analyse the language the media had used in their coverage of the issue of whaling over the Australian summer. We had a nice little booklet of articles, letters, editorials and news stories at the end, but it was the format that bothered us. Because the articles had been derived from an online search they were in that online format; a single headline in about 14 font, in one column with no accompanying photographs or artwork. Just text.
In fact, they didn’t look like newspaper articlea at all. We decided next year to use the databases to find the articles, then go and find the originals, and cut them out! With scissors, through paper.
So I thought about that conversation again today when I received a trial subscription to the Australian Online, not the website, but an online version of the newspaper that looks like the newspaper. You can scroll through it, look at a whole double page spread and then click on an article to read it, albeit in text form at that stage. The site also offers 90 days of back issues, advanced search and audio of each article (if you like your articles read in that robot voice from Radiohead!)
I’m not sold on the proprietary nature of the viewing platform, maybe Adobe has a chance to snaffle this market if they’re quick, and I know that various newspapers are taking up this challenge in a variety of ways, but I read through the various sections of Friday’s Australian very easily, and more easily than I would have thought. It certainly provides the visual context that was lacking in the print outs we gave our students, but also the visual context that is still lacking in the online version of most newspaper sites.
Maybe I wont need those scissors after all?